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Ray E Thompson

La Grande, Oregon

May 7, 1944

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
25 Army Air Corp SSG

B-24 Liberator

 Shot down in 1944 over Papua New Guinea.

For Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

April 10, 2013

From The Eastern Oregonian easternoregonian.com 04/01/13:

Staff Sgt. Ray E. Thompson
August 5, 1918-May 7, 1944
Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013 1:55 pm
Ray E. Thompson was born on August 5, 1918, in La Grande, Oregon, to Riley E. and Jennie E. Thompson. Ray was killed in action on May 7, 1944, serving his county in the South Pacific Theater. At the time of his death, he was survived by his father, Riley E. Thompson; stepmother Bernice Thompson; three sisters, Daisy (Thompson) Seaman, Bernice (Thompson) Gates and Verla (Thompson) Tomlinson; and two brothers, George A. Thompson and Riley D. Thompson. He is presently survived by his sister Verla Tomlinson of Spokane, Wash.; cousins Vernitta (Harmon) Searles of Pendleton, Ore., and Leah (Harmon) Lundberg of Walla Walla, Wash.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
His remains were discovered on September 25, 2002, in New Guinea by two local informants who reported their discovery to the Australian Defense Staff. The human remains were turned over to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii on March 10, 2003. Upon completion of the investigation that included DNA sampling, it was concluded that some of the remains were those of Staff Sargent Ray E. Thompson.
Graveside services will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday April 10, 2013, at the Olney Cemetery with the VFW Post 922 of Pendleton and Reverend Chris Clemons of the Pendleton Nazarene Church officiating. A gathering will be held at the VFW hall for family and friends following the service.
Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.pioneerchapel.com
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From The Oregonian oregonlive.com 04/10/13:

World War II airman's remains buried in Oregon, decades after his plane went missing
By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian 
Email the author on April 10, 2013 at 6:30 PM
PENDLETON -- An Oregon airman killed in a World War II plane crash in the South Pacific was laid to rest in a ceremony attended by family Wednesday in Pendleton's Olney Cemetery, almost 69 years after his death.
Army Staff Sgt. Ray Eugene Thompson, who grew up in La Grande and Pendleton and lived briefly in Portland, died May 7, 1944, when his B-24 Liberator Bomber went down in the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea. He was 25.

"Today, almost 70 years later, his family and friends are able to bring him home," Rev. Chris Clemons of the Pendleton Nazarene Church told about three dozen mourners during a graveside ceremony under overcast skies. "For a time, Ray was lost to us, but he was never lost to God."

The four-engine aircraft and its 10 crewmen, including Thompson, took off on a bombing mission from an airfield at Nadzab, New Guinea to attack enemy targets near Sawar, New Guinea. 

Jessica Pierno, spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department's Prisoner of War/ Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C. said the aircraft had been delayed by mechanical problems and left the airfield after the rest of the bomber formation. It disappeared over a rugged region of mountains and jungle northwest of Lae, New Guinea, Pierno said.

Family members of the crew had some closure in 1973 when the Royal Australian Air Force discovered the plane's wreckage and recovered crew members' dog tags. A "group burial" ceremony was held the following year at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

The plane's wreckage was re-discovered Sept. 25, 2002, and reported to the Australian Defense Staff. This time, more human remains were uncovered, and they were turned over to the military's U.S. Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii on March 10, 2003.

Using DNA sampling, investigators ultimately identified the remains as belonging to Thompson, who was an aircraft mechanic on the flight, and the pilot, Lt. John E. Terpning, of Mount Prospect, Ill., who was laid to rest April 3 at Arlington National Cemetery, said Pierno.

Thompson was born Aug. 5, 1918 in La Grande to Riley E. and Jennie E. Thompson. At the time of his death, he was survived by: his father Riley; stepmother Bernice Thompson; and sisters Daisy Seaman, Bernice Gates, and Verla Tomlinson.

Verla Tomlinson, now 85, was the only survivor at Wednesday's graveside service.

In an interview, Tomlinson tearfully described her brother, who was nine years her senior, as "kind and considerate, always looking after us three girls." One of her fondest memories was of the time he surprised her with a four-layer birthday cake, she said.

A six-footer who wore size 12 shoes -- "He had the biggest feet I'd ever seen," she said -- he was the one who settled family disputes. Their father was a railroader, and her brother's goal was to become a railroad conductor, said Tomlinson, a Spokane resident.

"He thought that was the coolest job," she said.

Her brother enlisted in the Army shortly after he Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and was engaged to be married when his plane went down, said Tomlinson.

"She was a lovely lady," Tomlinson said of his fiancee, whom she only met once. "I'm sure they would have been very happy."

Her brother was unable to come home after his enlistment and training, and she never saw him again, she said.

The flag that draped his Carolina Poplar casket was folded and awarded to Tomlinson, and she was given a posthumous Purple Heart on his behalf. An Oregon National Guard Honors Team acted as pallbearers, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 922 of Pendleton laid flowers and a wreath on the casket, symbolizing purity, victory and undying love.

Pierno, of the military's missing personnel office, said its mission is to account for missing soldiers from World War II, the Korean conflict and Vietnam.

Last year, her office accounted for 13 individuals lost during World War II and 62 others, most of them killed in Korea and Vietnam, she said.

"There is always some chance that other remains will be identified in the future" from the World War II era, she said.

The majority of cases of missing soldiers from World War II tend to be in the Pacific Theater, Pierno said, "but our work is spread around the globe." An estimated 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from the conflict.

From The Eastern Oregonian easternoregonian.com 03/12/13:

World War II Airman Will Be Laid To Rest After 70 Years
East Oregonian | March 13, 2013 4:36 p.m. | Updated: March 13, 2013 11:36 p.m.
Almost 70 years after a World War II airman crashed in a Papua New Guinea jungle, his family will bury him in a Pendleton cemetery.

Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Ray Thompson, 25, and nine other men vanished from the sky in 1944. The B-24 crew took off on a bombing mission and never arrived at the target. The Army declared him dead two years later.

In 1973, 2002 and 2008, B-24 wreckage and remains of the 10 airmen were discovered at three different sites. DNA testing identified some of the bones as Thompson’s. Verla Tomlinson, the last of the six Thompson siblings, found out in November that she finally could bury her big brother.

While growing up in their Pendleton home, Ray was her gentle protector and the one who settled sibling squabbles, crafted scooters made from apple boxes and roller skates and instigated games of kick the can.

“I always thought of him as a giant,” said Tomlinson, born nine years after Ray. “He was tall and wore size 12 shoes — my parents had to order them special.”

Watching him go off to war in 1942 was difficult, but even tougher was the day a military representative knocked on the door of the family home with news that her brother was missing in action.

“We were devastated,” she said. “My father was never the same.”

Tomlinson, 85, said she still gets emotional nearly seven decades after Ray’s disappearance. She said the family got some closure in 1973 after a Papua New Guinea forestry worker stumbled upon aircraft wreckage and found scattered human remains and four sets of dog tags. One of the tags belonged to Ray E. Thompson. The wreckage showed no sign of fire or explosion, according to a 2012 military report on recovery and identification efforts.

Family members traveled to Arlington National Cemetery for a special ceremony in 1974, honoring the 10 men and interring their combined remains in two caskets and a common gravesite.

A 1974 article in The Oregonian quotes older sister Daisy Seaman, now deceased, who said the identification tag discovery forced the family to put any remaining hopes aside and finally move on.

“The Army had declared him dead two years after the crash,” she said, “but we always had lingering doubts. We weren’t sure, but what he was still alive, maybe wandering around not knowing who he was.”

She said the family hadn’t realized his job included flying, saying, “We knew he was an airplane mechanic, but he didn’t want anyone to know he was flying for fear we would worry.”

When more wreckage turned up in 2002 and 2008 within a couple miles of the 1974 wreckage, more human bones went to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory in Oahu, Hawaii, to be sorted out and identified. Blood from two of Ray’s female cousins helped investigators do DNA matching and conclusively identify Thompson’s remains.

Tomlinson said she feels gratitude to the United States government for its tenacity in bringing home lost warriors.

“They’ve taken all this time, money and effort to make sure families know what happened,” she said.

She’s sorry her parents and other siblings, including their oldest sister Daisy, never got to hear the final chapter. Tomlinson, her husband (also named Ray) and other family members will gather in Pendleton at 10 a.m., April 10, for a graveside service at Olney Cemetery. The Pendleton VFW members will assist with the service.

Tomlinson, who was taking care of arrangements at Pendleton Pioneer Chapel on Tuesday, smiled as she shared memories of Ray, brushing aside tears that still come when she thinks about her big brother.

She signed funeral home papers with a careful hand.

“I’m hoping this will finally put things to rest.”

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